Pages: 336 (hardcover)
When twelve-year-old Jason Hunter and his two friends discover a spaceship buried in the woods behind his New Hampshire home, his world is turned upside down. Suddenly, he finds himself fleeing the Earth on a desperate mission to save his abducted parents and prevent an alien invasion. The journey takes him halfway across the galaxy, where he must confront bizarre and deadly creatures, escape from a toxic region of space called the Vuhndalac Pit, and evade capture by a powerful alien leader intent on destroying him. Hidden somewhere among the stars is an ancient talisman that Jason must find before it is too late. If he is the Heir of Elam, the one person in the entire universe who can claim this talisman, he will be able to save his parents, and his planet. If he is not, touching it will be the last thing he ever does!
The Talisman of Elam is the first book in the epic science fiction/adventure trilogy, The Children of Hathor. Eons ago, great forces were set in motion by an extinct race whose technology was so advanced that even now the pieces that remain seem to operate as if by magic. Jason Hunter finds himself at the center of a gathering storm that threatens all humanoid civilization in the galaxy. He may be all that stands between humanity and destruction, or he may be the unwitting agent of that destruction! -Goodreads
Finding good science fiction is hard. Finding good science fiction for a middle-grade audience is even harder. But now seekers of space thrills need not look any further. The Talisman of Elam is what every young Star Wars geek (I say that with love) can hope for in a book, and I absolutely adored it!
The Talisman of Elam is classic science fiction with a modern twist. Mastro takes the reader on an amazing adventure as his characters pinball back and forth across the galaxy, encountering strange creatures at every stop as they search for the talisman. The plot is incredibly fast-paced (as Jason and his friends are constantly on the run), never leaving the reader with a dull moment. However, this doesn't mean that Mastro sacrifices the time to give enough background information or planet-related history to explain what's going on. As a matter of fact, I was a little surprised at how skillfully information is released throughout the story. Exactly the right amount of information is given at exactly the right time to completely construct the universe this plot takes place in and avoid confusion. Though the science fiction and fantasy elements of this novel are intelligent and complex, they are easy to understand because everything is grounded in some level of reality. If you could see me right now, you'd see that I have a big smile on my face. It's so hard to find good middle grade science fiction that isn't dumbed down or just plane silly-cute for the sake of amusement, and I had a blast learning about the universe's history according to Shalan.
I loved getting to know the characters as well. For 12-year-olds, Jason and his friends handle the situation that they've been dragged into like champs. They're brave, rational, and trusting of each other while still maintaining the uncertainty and excitement that 12-year-olds are expected to have. Oh, and did I mention that they balance each other out? Jason, Kevin, and Amelia each bring something different to the team, and Mastro capitalizes on their unique talents to move the plot forward. Even without one, the team wouldn't have succeeded in any of their quests. In fact, just about every character mentioned plays an important role in some way, shape, or form, even if they don't return in the end. It was nice to realize that any name I had to memorize wasn't without reason, and it was nice to see Jason's friends weren't just there to support him as cheerleaders.
Though The Talisman of Elam may not be for everyone, those who do decide to pick it up will enjoy its heroes, exciting plot, and masterfully constructed environment. This is exactly the kind of book that the middle-grade science fiction section needs, and I CANNOT wait to get my hands on the next book! For those of you who are interested at taking a peek at the first few chapters of The Talisman of Elam, Mastro has been kind enough to post them on his website. For more information, or to read The Talisman of Elam, go to http://www.talismanofelam.com/. I highly recommend it!